Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Month of Bad News.....

Is it just me, or is the news over the last month been a bit more depressing than usual? I don't even mean the economic situation, or global warming. I've just seen too many stories about species extinction , religious conflicts, inhumane governments and even steps to giving robots powers to control humans....

Global, Oct 6th:

Nearly a quarter of the world's land mammal species are at risk of extinction, and many others may vanish before they are even known to science, according to a major annual survey of global wildlife.

At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are threatened, with 188 listed in the highest risk "critically endangered" category. One in three marine mammals are also threatened, according to the five year review.

The "red list" assessment, conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), involved more than 1,700 experts in 130 countries, and confirms the devastating impact of forest clearing, hunting, fisheries, pollution and climate change on the populations and ranges of the world's most studied class of animals.

Ivory Coast, Oct 17th:

The population of the endangered West African chimpanzees in Ivory Coast has fallen by about 90% in less than 20 years, a study has suggested.

Researchers found 90% fewer nests than a similar audit carried out in 1990, which suggested the chimp population had crashed from 12,000 to about 1,200.

Increased levels of deforestation and poaching were likely to be main factors for the decline, they added.

Details of the survey's findings appear in the journal Current Biology.

Ivory Coast, thought to be one of the last strongholds for the species (Pan troglodytes verus), was believed to be home to between 8,000 and 12,000 individuals.

India, Oct 19th :

Hundreds of Christians in the Indian state of Orissa have been forced to renounce their religion and become Hindus after lynch mobs issued them with a stark ultimatum: convert or die.

The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.

Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council.

Afghanistan Oct 20th:

Taliban militants have stopped a bus travelling on the Afghanistan's main highway, seized about 50 people on board and slaughtered around 30 of them.

A Taliban spokesman said the militia's fighters carried out the attack in the country's south and that they had killed 27 Afghan army soldiers riding on the bus. However, Afghan officials said no soldiers were aboard and that the militants had killed civilians.

The bus was travelling in a two-bus convoy in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, a Taliban-controlled area about 40 miles (60 kilometers) west of Kandahar city.

USA, Oct 24th

"The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to 'develop a software/hardware suite that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject. The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject ... Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.'"

Iraq. Oct 25th:

The full scale of the persecution of Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul became apparent last night when the UN's refugee agency said about 13,000 had been hounded from their homes this month - more than half of the city's Christian community.

The UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) said it was sending aid to thousands of Christian refugees fleeing Mosul after a three-week campaign of killing and intimidation. About a dozen Christians have reportedly been killed in the recent violence, prompting many members of the community to seek sanctuary in churches and homes in outlying villages, or in Syria. "Many left with little money and need help," said Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesman, in a briefing from Geneva. Christian neighbourhoods had been bombarded with threatening phone calls, letters and messages pinned to doors for months, but the killing began a few weeks ago, he said.

Zimbabwe, Oct 26th:

Mr Mambo's wife Mary was one of them, diagnosed with a kidney ailment and in desperate need of treatment which he could easily afford.

But in the cruel and surreal world of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the devoted husband could not withdraw his savings from the bank in time to pay doctors for the care that could have saved her life.

The hospital told him that he had to make a Z$20 million down payment before they started treatment (the equivalent at black market rates of around £7.20) - but the banks have a withdrawal limit of just Z$50,000 per day. Then he was told to buy drugs from private pharmacies to save her at the cost of Z$30 million. By the time he got special clearance from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, hyperinflation had forced up the cost of the drugs to Z$50 million.

On Thursday she died as he knelt beside her bed. But his agony wasn't yet complete. He had to transport her body back to their hometown of Chinhoyi, 80 miles away, where their three children were waiting, this time at the cost of $40 million.

"The doctors have been criss-crossing this place, watching her waste away without care," he said. "She was not a candidate for death, I have my money in the bank but they have been cruel enough to deny me access to that money."

Mr Mambo's tragedy was barely noticed in Parirenyatwa Hospital, named after the nation's first black doctor. That man's son is now the Health Minister, David Parirenyatwa, a Mugabe crony who has been accused of orchestrating violent attacks against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change


Roger Owen Green said...

no, the news is just as bad. it's just that at 50, you're newly sensitized to it. it's a curse, believe me.

Chris Black said...

Why are you up so early Roger???!

Roger Owen Green said...

insomnia. probably from worrying about the problems of the world.

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